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USING MICROBLOGGING IN EDUCATION. CASE STUDY: CIRIP.

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Using microblogging in education.


Case Study: Cirip.ro
Carmen Holotescu1, Gabriela Grosseck2
1 Technical University, Department of Computer Science, Timisoara, Romania
2 University of the West Timisoara, Department of Social Informatics, Romania

Abstract—Microblogging is the Web2.0 technology with the


most important impact in 2008, with applications in many II. MICROBLOGGING WITH CIRIP – CURRENT ISSUE
domains, including education. On a microblogging platform, Cirip.ro is a microblogging platform specially designed
the users can send and receive messages via the web, SMS, for education and business, launched this year in March,
instant messaging clients, and by third party applications; implemented by Timsoft, a company specialized in e-
the most known platform is Twitter. With a solid experience learning and mobile applications, under the first author's
in using Web2.0 technologies in education, the authors are coordination. The platform has many educational uses, for
trying to provide arguments for using microblogging information and knowledge management, for courses
platforms in education, underlining the advantages, but also enhancement, for delivering entire online courses, for
possible bad points. The article presents a microblogging collaborative projects in universities, for communities of
platform specially designed for education, called Cirip.ro,
practice, or for eportfolios.
which offers facilities such as live video / audio messages,
multimedia objects embedding, private and public groups, Besides the facilities that Twitter offers, Cirip.ro comes
feeds monitoring. Some concrete examples are presented, in with the following:
which the platform is used for courses enhancement, for  Users have the possibility to specify the domain
communities of practice, but also for delivering entire online about which they will write the notes; this makes
courses. How to facilitate such projects, how to integrate finding microblogs from a specific domain easier,
other Web2.0 technologies, how to evaluate students particularly the educational ones;
portfolios and participation are underlined too.
 Creating user groups; pupils, students, teachers can
Index Terms—Web2.0, collaborative technologies,
create public or private groups(in the private ones
microblogging, education, social learning the notes are visible only for members);
 The possibility to embed images, audio and (live)
video files, presentations, documents in notes;
I. INTRODUCTION  The possibility to subscribe to search feeds or to
Microblogging is a Web2.0 technology and a new form feeds offered by sites / blogs / social networks –
of blogging, that let the users publish online brief text the same as users and groups, the feeds can be
updates, usually less then 140-200 characters, sometimes monitored, online, by IM, or by SMS.
images too. The posts can be edited and accessed online, The interface is in Romanian and in English, facilitating
or sent as SMS, e-mail or via instant messaging clients. an international collaboration.
Usually the microblogs authors embed their posts as a
Many statistics and visual representations offered by
widget on blogs or sites.
platform are useful for quantitative and qualitative
Microblogging enables a real-time interaction between evaluation.
users, using different devices, technologies and
The platform has a few thousands users, an important
applications [1]. The best known microblogging services
percentage being pupils, students and teachers.
are Twitter, Tumblr, Pownce, and Jaiku [2] and, recently
Edmodo. There are also local microblogging systems, During June 4-18, 2008, the authors developed and
very appreciated among Romanian Internet users, like moderated an online course, in a private group. It is a
Cirip.ro, Zazazoo.ro and Logoree.ro. world premiere, the first online course developed and run
entirely on a microblogging platform.
Even though Twitter seems to be the most popular
microblogging system, recently teachers and students tend In the next paragraphs we will present the first entire
to use a special platform designed for education called online course run on Cirip.ro, which gave us the
Edmodo.com to send “notes, links, files, alerts, opportunity to gain valuable experience and to reach
assignments, and events to each other”. Other educational useful conclusions for the current courses run for different
uses of microblogging can be found in Ref [3] and [8]. universities or for continuos education.
The paper will describe the facilities of the The aim of this course was to find out if microblogging
microblogging platform Cirip.ro, and how it can be used can be integrated in the lifelong learning / teaching /
in education. collaboration / business / blogging. The topics addressed
were: microblogging platforms, Twitter facilities, Cirip.ro
facilities, uses in education, uses in business, uses in blogs
promotion etc.
USING MICROBLOGGING IN EDUCATION. CASE STUDY: CIRIP.RO

We wanted to investigate: Besides discussions and debates conducted by the wide


 how to integrate microblogging with other Web2.0 range of messages we carried out a series of collaborative
technologies; exercises, which will be presented in the next section.
 if a microblogging platform, in particular Cirip.ro, IV. PARTICIPATION IN DISCUSSIONS
can be used as a Learning Management System
(LMS), and if it has the needed facilities to run an Although initially 50 people have registered, 40 of them
online course; have actively participated. The participants were mainly
 what are the differences between facilitating an educational actors (students, teachers, developers,
online course on such a platform and one in a librarians etc.). They appear in the members section of the
classic LMS. group (figure 2). For each member, the total number of
contributions in the group is listed. The Network option
shows a graphical representation for the group.
III. GROUP FACILITIES
The course was hosted and run in the private group
cursmb of the microblogging platform Cirip.ro.
A group has a special section for announcements
(Group News) - another original element of the platform,
where the moderators can post notes and useful materials
for the group activities (figure 1).
The authors have published in the announcements both
notes on the proposed activities and course resources
(mainly tutorials on course topics, with a variety of
multimedia elements).
The discussions on the proposed themes were realized
through messages sent by the participants in the group
space. Messages can be sent / monitored online (web site
or CiripFox – a Firefox extension) or as: SMS ( it’s simple
to track the group messages via mobile phone); instant
messages; e-mail (daily notices with followed messages,
answers, new followers or news are received by those who
activate this option); it is also possible to send e-mail
messages on Cirip.ro, including in groups.
Other valuable options are the facilities to send live Figure 2. Group Members section(42 members)
video / audio messages and to integrate multimedia
objects in the notes, all of them becoming part of the There were almost 1100 messages written in the group,
information / communication flow (eg. audio clips saved approximately 100 after the end of the course. On average,
on a server or vocaroo, audio clips from e-ok.ro, trilulilu each member wrote 25 messages, which demonstrates an
or deezer; flickr or tinypic images, youTube, seismic, interested participation, and involvement.
vimeo, veevo or dotsub videos; slideshare, voicethread or The Tagcloud group section (present for any microblog
flowgram presentations; pdf, docs or spreadsheet files too) allows interesting observations regarding the terms
etc.). that appear most often in messages, the most active users,
resources specified most frequently in messages.
In figure 3 one can see the 50 words that have appeared
most often in the last 500 messages.
Topics Tagcloud and Network are interesting features
of the groups created on the Cirip.ro platform, useful in
analysing the interactions in learning or practice
communities.
To evaluate the participants we have considered:
- number and quality of messages sent in course
group
- the eportfolio which consists of public and
private messages
- number of followers/followings/groups/feeds
- number of messages sent to other participants,
reactions to messages
- direct communication with other participants and
other users of the platform.
Figure 1. Group news, http://www.cirip.ro/grup/cursmb
The timeline, network, tagcloud sections of
microblogs and groups offer useful data for evaluation.
USING MICROBLOGGING IN EDUCATION. CASE STUDY: CIRIP.RO

6. A code of good practice on microblogs with


items written by the participants using the
collaborative platform writeboard.com.
One can observe: the most active members, nouns,
verbs, and notions that appeared most often in discussions,
participation and also a warm and open atmosphere
between participants.

VI. GENERAL REMARKS


The course promoted values and attitudes among
participants as followed in the lines bellow. Above all,
through the course we promoted an ambient awareness for
„communication, connections, and immediacy in 140
Characters at a time” [5], seldom seen in other on-line
Figure 3.Group Tagcloud learning situations:
 interest in life-long learning; motivations and
flexibility in developing their own educational and
V. COLLABORATIVE ACTIVITIES AND THEIR RESULTS vocational route
In this section we offer an overview of the collaborative  respect and confidence in themselves and others
activities carried out during the course, which involved the  facilitate mutual awareness; responsiveness to the
use of other Web2.0 technologies. For most of the emotions of others
participants this was the first contact with them, so in
advance helpful information was offered:  valuing interpersonal relations - to learn how to
take turns in speaking
1. Puzzle images - we proposed a combination
word - picture (Creative Commons from flickr)  the course turned into an interface to own
experiences - developing the skills to meet the
to be associated with microblogs and / or demands of social life in general
microblogging. Towards the end of the course
this exercise was redone, to see if the opinion  analysis of real needs and problems (examples:
How do I ...? Does anyone know if ..? etc.) and
about microblogging was changed during the
building polls (which are Ciriposphere verbs - the
course. metaphors of microblogging).
2. A collaborative collection on del.icio.us created
During the course the participants developed the public
during the course, which was enlarged and used
part of their microblogs: writing public messages,
after the course end. following and discussing with other users, validating the
3. Translation of “Twitter in Plain English” video, topics of the course, monitoring feeds, and being part in
which is part of the Common Craft Show other groups. After the course ended, they continue to
collection. Video is posted on dotsub.com, activate on the platform, communicating and collaborating
where the transcript was translated through with facilitators and other participants. This is an
collaborative editing a document on important advantage of this platform, the learning
writeboard.com. community continuing to be active after the course ended.
4. A voicethread object with text and audio The course has also allowed:
comments submitted by members.  a wide variety of expression forms (voice, video,
5. Notes on a Flickr image. Starting from images etc.) using mashup tools already tested in
wordle.net, a resource suggested by a participant education, for communicating personal and
- TBD, a tagcloud (fig. 4) with the words that didactical experience
appeared most frequently in the aprox. first 600  the application of effective and flexible techniques
messages of the course was generated. in using microblogging in education
 reversibility of messages
 to build a set of best practices
 promoting personal blogs
 export microblogs notes on the blogs
 "ambassadors" of ideas / concepts / events
 humor, good mood.
There were also:
 moments of inertia (see group timeline for
messages distribution in time)
 certain technical constraints (do not forget that it is
a platform in continuous development and
Figure 4. Tagcloud made with Wordle, improvement), messages without dissipation
http://www.flickr.com/photos/cami13/2573662470/
USING MICROBLOGGING IN EDUCATION. CASE STUDY: CIRIP.RO

 unequal contributions from participants curriculum microblogging can be built based on the
 a certain degree of pollution or noise information. principle of learning spiral.

VII. CONCLUSIONS A ND FUTURE WORK


REFERENCES
For the authors of this paper, microblogging, and
[1] M., Ebner, M., Schiefner , Microblogging - more than fun? in
especially Cirip.ro, proved to be an effective tool for Proceedings of IADIS Mobile Learning Conference 2008,
professional development and for collaboration with Inmaculada Arnedillo Sánchez and Pedro Isaías ed., Portugal,
students, that can change the rules of the courses and 2008, p. 155-159.
models good pedagogy responsive to student's learning [2] Java et al., Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage
needs. Furthermore, as a social networking / and Communities, 12August 2007,
microblogging platform, Cirip.ro provides valuable http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/paper/html/id/367/Why-We-Twitter-
interactions in educational context, acting as a social Understanding-Microblogging-Usage-and-Communities.
factor in a course management system [4]. [3] G., Grosseck, C., Holotescu., Can we use Twitter for educational
activities?, The 4th International Scientific Conference eLSE
We appreciate that the microblogging platform Cirip.ro "eLearning and Software for Education", Bucharest, April 17-18,
has facilities which permit delivering successful and 2008.
quality online courses; the communication, authoring, [4] N. Katz (editor), The tower and the cloud, Educause, 2008.
monitoring, statistical facilities make Cirip.ro a modern [5] S., Milstein, B., Lorica, Twitter and the Micro-Messaging
free LMS. Revolution: Communication, Connections, and Immediacy—140
To facilitate an entire online course or a part of a Characters at a Time, O’Reilly Media, 2008.
course on such a platform requires specific facilitation [6] C. Holotescu, Notes on microblogging,
http://www.timsoft.ro/weblog
skills, and collaborative technologies knowledge. The
[7] G. Grosseck, Notes on microblogging,
effort and time needed are more important than those for http://grosseck.blogspot.com
an online course hosted on a clasic LMS. We would [8] D. Parry, Twitter for Academia, January 23rd 2008,
recommend to run entire online courses on Cirip.ro only if http://academhack.outsidethetext.com/home/2008/twitter-for-
the course duration is of a few weeks, otherwise the academia/
facilitation and communication become too demanding for [9] Rob Koper, Colin Tattersall: Learning Design - A Handbook on
teachers and students. Modelling and Delivering Networked Education and Training,
Future developments: Springer, 2005.

 Tags will be implemented to classify notes and to


organize the groups mesages in topics defined by the
facilitator.
 The authors intend to develop a specification for AUTHORS
evaluating students eportfolio and participation in
Carmen Holotescu is the manager of Timsoft, an
courses run or enhanced by microblogging. eLearning company and junior lecturer, Ph.D. Candidate
 Scenarios for using microblogging together with at Politehnica University, Department of Computer
different collaborative technologies in formal and Science, Timisoara, Romania (cami@timsoft.ro)
informal courses will be modelled using Educational
Modelling Language[9]. Gabriela Grosseck is senior lecturer, Ph.D., at
In conclusion, respecting the learning time budget, each Department of Social Informatics, Faculty of Sociology
teacher can choose to use microblogging to enhance and Psychology University of the West Timisoara,
her/his courses. This is the option recommended by the Romania (ggrosseck@socio.uvt.ro)
authors of this material due to the following
considerations: the need for personal development and Published as submitted by the author(s).
planning issues related to the future course and a